Friday, 2 September 2011

Torchwood – Episode 8 – End of the Road

It’s a Miracle!  A Blessing! Torchwood has finally begun to get somewhere, 8 episodes into its 10 episode run.  And it was actually quite good.  Whilst I try, on these blogs, to be as impartial as I can, my Torchwood blogs have been filled with disdain as, other than episodes 5 and 7, they have for the most part been formulaic in their approach, looking at only the surface of the situation, and not delving into the nitty-gritty as I’d hoped they would.  This week, however, everything was ramped up a notch, and it made some pretty good television.

Nana Visitor’s character, Olivia Colasanti, last week promised “I can take you to the one man who knows how the Miracle began...  Angelo,” and that was the hook not only for Jack to go willingly, but for the audience to continue watching.  Much has been made of this new series not progressing, and reviewers, bloggers, and fan-sites on Facebook have been filled with riled viewers – myself included – claiming that for too long now, Macguffin after Macguffin have been dealt to us, with distractions thrown in for good measure, whilst the Torchwood team potter around, not actually achieving anything.  Terminology like “The Soulless” and “Dead is Dead!” have been bandied around, with nothing coming to any kind of conclusion.  Another of these phrases with was thrown out there was morphic field.

Jack first mentioned morphic fields back in episode 2, on the plane.  It was then touched upon in episode 3, and has since been forgotten about.  But finally, in this episode, we are informed that Captain Jack was right all along!  It is a morphic field that’s responsible, at least in part, for the Miracle.  The discovery of the morphic field below Angelo Collasanti’s bed provided the crux of this episode, allowing the team to get a better understanding of what they are dealing with – but only vaguely.  And this is where I start to pick holes – Jack has, until this series, never been so bloody useless.  Even in Children of Earth, Jack had some clue – it took a very brief flashback, and he knew exactly what he was dealing with.  Yet here, in Miracle Day, he continues to wander about aimlessly with little or no clue as to what he needs to do.  The best he can come up with is to take part of the morphic field... and leave.

Angelo’s granddaughter, Olivia, informed us that Angelo was the one man who knew how the Miracle began – which is a lie.  A gigantic plain-faced lie.  Olivia spouts some nice exposition about jellyfish, and their ability to regenerate eternally, tells Jack that Angelo was watching him for years, and points out the ‘families’ who we saw last week, and that every single person watching had figured out were responsible.  But that’s all.  She doesn’t mention morphic fields, or alien technology, or anything else.  And that, to me, feels like a massive cheat.  We all knew that it was the families, despite the teaser at the end of the last episode which suggested Angelo was really responsible.  By turning that on its head so soon, it feels like Torchwood is doing a great disservice to the fans who have so far invested eight hours into watching the new series.  Along with all of the other empty plots and dead ends, we’re now being lied to directly.

When Jack says his goodbyes to Angelo, it should be a sweet scene.  It should be.  Instead, it feels like Jack, as always, is simply a gloating gay guy boasting about his conquests.  The mention of Ianto made my skin crawl.  And then Angelo dies.  In a world where that should be impossible.  Watching Jack screaming at heart monitors and IV drips was verging on ludicrous.  Barrowman hammed it up to the best of his ability, but it was ultimately an unbelievable scene which came to nothing.  His tender kiss goodbye to the “old man” was the one gentle touch of this scene – and what seems to have ultimately led to Angelo’s death.  Following the reveal of the morphic field below his bed, my idea is that, by entering the morphic field, Jack returned to his immortal state whilst Angelo was able to resume his mortality and fritter away into the ether.  This would also help to explain Jack’s apparent absence in next week’s episode, going by the teaser trailer.  With the alpha plate in his pocket, will this increase his longevity again, ensuring that whilst he has sustained a life-threatening gunshot wound to the stomach, he will die, as he always does, before coming back to life?  Also, the guy in the balaclava shooting at the CCTV cameras next week...?  I reckon that’s Jack...

The guest cast list is impressive, as I’ve stated before, but it does at times hinder the progress of the story – enlisting Nana Visitor last week, Wayne Knight at the beginning and reappearing here, and now John De Lancie is like a who’s who in Sci-Fi.  But the characters are such pointless additions to the story that two of the three were killed off near the head of the episode – by killing off Visitor’s Olivia moments before Angelo died, it ensures that we will be getting nothing more in the way of information from the Colasantis.  Similarly, following the reveal that Knight’s Friedkin was a mole for the Families, whilst working for the CIA, you can’t help but think that they’d have kept a better eye on him, rather than letting him blow himself up like that.  Also, why did he wait until he was in the car?  He could have detonated the explosives in Colasanti’s bedroom and gotten rid of ‘those pesky meddling kids’...  I mean, the Torchwood team.

John De Lancie was something of a revelation though.  He clearly relished the role, and stole every scene he was in, with a gusto that was beyond impressive.  He was all bravado, shouting orders, decommissioning Torchwood and deporting Gwen at the click of his fingers.  I loved the deportation of Gwen most of all – simply because she annoyed him.  He threatened to do it, but was dissuaded, and then did it anyway – fantastic! 

The stand-out performance from De Lancie only further shows the weaknesses of our main cast, however.  Eve Myles’ Gwen did nothing but bluster, say “bollocks!” and cry.  A lot.  Myles, last week, was brilliant with a very under-stated performance – although again she did cry an awful lot.  In episode 8, though, she was redundant.  Sat in the wings for most of the story, and then bundled off by the CIA for being an annoying Welsh girl, seemed apt for this new side to the character that we were forced to endure for her thirty minutes of screen time.

Rex and Esther continue with the ‘dumb and dumber’ routine, although this week at least we got to see a slightly more human side to Rex – rather than the utter tool he has been for the last few weeks, we can now understand that his bravado is a mask to cover the fear he feels about his impending death, once the Miracle stops.  Esther, however, has become even more irritating and dislikeable.  She gave away the morphic field under the bed, and spent more time on the phone talking to her crazy sister...  and I just couldn’t have cared less.  The characterisation of Esther has been so generally sloppy that it’s difficult to give two hoots about her, or her sister, or her nieces. 

Speaking of ridiculous things, the negated space around the morphic field in Angelo’s house was a ridiculous waste of time – how could CIA operatives, watching Captain Jack and co under house arrest, not have noticed their muted gabbling, made even more conspicuous by Rex the Tool wandering away while Esther mouthed numbers at them?  While the three conversed within the null field, where sound could not escape, and chatted for about five minutes whilst making themselves “look busy” was beyond me, and truly did stretch my credulity to breaking point!  It was adding insult to injury that the two CIA men also didn’t notice – and then the Director of the CIA walked in, and also didn’t notice anything – and these people think they can solve the problems of Miracle Day without Torchwood?!

It was nice to see Bill Pullman and Lauren Ambrose return to the screens this week.  They have been a noticeable absence for the last two episodes, and I, for one, have sorely missed them.  Whilst they certainly haven’t been integral to the plot up to now, they have made a nice relief, and there have been some genuinely unsettling moments.  This episode was no different, as we first had to endure Oswald’s horrendous and bile-inducing dancing, and then he informed Jilly that he wants ‘a girl’.  When he looked her up and down, informing her that he wanted one of legal age, with red hair, my toes curled – as did Jilly’s, judging by the expression on her face.  Ambrose’s has been a restrained performance from the start, barely concealing her disgust at her ‘client’.  What did go some way to undermine this performance was that she willingly signed up to work for ‘The Families’ after she saw her intern, a CIA mole in reality, shot three times by the handsome stranger from the Miracle Rally.  Whilst I understand that she is eager to further herself in the world of PR, following a murderer, however gorgeous he may be, seems a little false to me.

Pullman’s performance was creepy, yet with a gentleness that, worryingly, made me feel for him.  Of course, I am not justifying his actions, but this man genuinely seems eager to find some redemption.  He is disgusting, and a criminal, but his conversation with the red-headed lady of the night was quite moving.  When he discovered that the government were putting through legislation to create a new category, Category Zero, which meant that criminals who should be dead would be cremated in the gigantic ovens first seen in episode 5, the rage was palpable, as he rooted through Jilly’s belongings before punching her square in the face.  What a guy.

Other side-plots involve the emergence of yet another mole in the CIA – conveniently, since their other mole died at the beginning of the episode – and more mystery surrounding a morphic field large enough to encapsulate the entire planet.  Added to this is the suggestion that Jack’s blood is somehow involved – an idea that I postulated upon last week, as I’m sure many fans did, but one which has been pooh-poohed by Jack himself.

So, with only two episodes, and still so much to discover about the Families responsible, the purpose of the alien technology recovered from the destroyed Torchwood hub in Children of Earth, and Gwen’s relocation to Wales for next week’s episode involving a mysterious man looking through cellars with a torch, searching for her father, we’re sure to have an action-packed penultimate episode.  I only hope it keeps up the momentum achieved by this week’s episode, and delivers some answers to the questions which it keeps throwing at us.  As Rhys said: “Where’s it all heading?”  Well, Rhys, we’ll soon see...

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